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Jeff Manker

Gilroy, CA, United States

Award Winning Entry: Celestron Binocular Winner

High School Ornithology Class

Last year I started what I believed to be the only year-long, high school level Ornithology class in the state of California. If there are others out there I would love to hear from you!

My students mostly have no experience with birding, so we start from scratch. At the end of last year one of my student's told me she was mad at me because now she can't go anywhere without looking at birds and all her family and friends thinks she is crazy. I told her, "Join the club!"

Among other things, my class utilizes BirdSleuth's Most Wanted Birds and Investigating Evidence teaching materials. We also go on weekly bird walks and enter all of our data on eBird. I just participated in a BirdCam webinar and hope to incorporate that resource in my teaching as well. This summer I will be going to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the BirdSleuth Educator retreat to learn how to use the new Habitat Connections Kit with my students.

I am still feeling my way with this class. I have only a college level textbook (difficult for my students) and materials I have cobbled together to fill a year's worth of content. Thanks to BirdSleuth and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I have found some great materials to turn my students into active, enthusiastic scientists.

Students taking field notes on campus to be used for their later entry into their eBird accounts.

Recent Comments (6)

  • Fantastic! I teach zoology in high school which has some of the same challenges- difficult textbook and, initially, a lack of lab activities. Over the years, I have put together a year long class. I’d love to investigate teaching a specialized class in ornithology! Nice work!

  • Scott Lenhart says:

    Hey Jeff, I teach a full-year Ornithology Class in a public High School in New York State. I also volunteer with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. They are a great resource.

  • Teresa Dell says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these resources. I am going to be teaching an Intro to Ornithology high school course (Upstate New York) and I am struggling to find appropriate material for this level. I am looking forward to reviewing these resources. Thanks again!

    • Jeff Manker says:


      If you want some resources or advice on starting this class, please contact me through my school email at Gilroy High School.

  • Alan Spearman says:

    Dear Jeff:
    What you are doing is wonderful. I’ve birded all my life but have never really had an opportunity to get my students interested in birds . I’d love to start. I have submitted a proposal to our administration floating the possibility of some kind of program like yours (it’s actually in response to administrative “strategic plans” ). I teach at a private girls’ school in southern Virginia, way out in the boonies but with a campus about 400 acres (in my 20 years here,we have never exploited any of the possibilities such a situation offers, but now may be the time). I guess what I wanted to ask you involved some of the administrative stuff you have had to negotiate. For instance: Is the program associated with a particular department? (I teach English lit and Latin). Are academic credits for your students part of your arrangement? I have many more questions, but I’ll stop there. I don’t want you to feel under siege, but I’d love to correspond if possible and learn more of the technicalities and specifics you had to deal with when starting off. Thanks!

    • Jeff Manker says:

      That is great that you are thinking of doing something with birds. My class is part of our Science department curriculum. Students definitely receive academic credits and they count for college admission. In California we have what is known as “a-g requirements” which are tied to the University of California and whether a class is rigorous enough to count as college prep. I went through principal approval, UC a-g approval and finally approval by our district school board. It was not easy convincing people that this was a good idea. However, it has been totally worth it.

      I would be happy to share more to help you get started. Please email me through our school email at Gilroy High School.


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